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Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

(continued)

Remicade

Like Enbrel and Humira, Remicade reduces inflammation and damage from rheumatoid arthritis by blocking a chemical activator of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

Remicade is given by intravenous infusion in the doctor's office, an infusion center, or hospital. Each infusion takes about two hours. The intravenous treatments are given three times during the first six weeks of therapy, then every eight weeks thereafter.

The most common side effects of Remicade are upper respiratory infection (including sinus infection), nausea, headache, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

Rituxan

Rituxan is used to treat RA that has not improved with TNF-blockers, such as Enbrel, Humira, or Remicade. Rituxan is an antibody protein that works by targeting and reducing the number of specialized white blood cells, called B cells, in the blood. Rituxan is given as two intravenous infusions -- separated two weeks apart. Repeat courses of Rituxan are considered after four to six months.

Rituxan's most common side effects are fever, chills, nausea, headache, and low levels of white blood cells.

Simponi

Simponi blocks the effects of TNF that triggers inflammation. Simponi is taken once a month by injection or every other month through an IV. After a health care professional shows you how to do a self injection, you can do it yourself at home with either a prefilled syringe or an autoinjector.

In addition to injection site reaction, the most common side effects include upper respiratory infections, runny nose, abnormal liver tests, and high blood pressure.

Summary

With any treatment, it is important to meet with your doctor regularly to monitor your progress and to evaluate side effects. Your doctor may periodically order blood tests or other tests to determine the effectiveness of your treatment and detect internal side effects.

Biologic drugs have affected the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis tremendously. As described above, other biologics are being developed that either provide alternative methods or frequency of administration or different targets of action.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 10, 2013
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